What is Caladrius in Roman Mythology?

According to Roman legend, a snow-white bird used to dwell in the house of the king and cured inhabitants of disease and maladies. This bird was called the Caladrius. 

But what exactly is the Caladrius? What does it look like? And what does it do? Read on to learn all about the Roman mythical bird. 

What is the Caladrius?

Caladrius visiting the sick
Caladrius visiting the sick

The Caladrius was a snow-white bird with healing properties that featured in many Roman mythology stories. It was also believed to have a prophetic nature. 

Purportedly, the bird would visit sick people in the king’s house and draw their illness out of them with its healing nature. The Caladrius was able to absorb any illness from patients by merely looking at them, and it would carry the ailment away with it when departing.

Not only could the bird heal, though, and by the time the legend of Caladrius had reached the bestiaries of the Middle Ages, it was said to be able to predict life or death in a sick patient.

If the Caladrius looked into your eyes when visiting to cure your illness, you would live to see another day. If the bird looked away, your days were numbered and your malady would likely get the better of you. 

Such was the importance given to the Caladrius’ healing capabilities, its waste products were also said to heal blindness. How this was tested, though, is perhaps best not to think about…   

As with many creatures in medieval bestiaries, a Christian interpretation was often provided for the myth. In the case of the Caladrius, the bird was said to be a representation of Christ himself – the white plumage shows purity, while the lack of black demonstrates a lack of sin. 

Is Caladrius real?

The Caladrius is believed to be based on the dove
The Caladrius is believed to be based on the dove

Although the Caladrius is heavily steeped in myth and, of course, did not have healing or prophetic abilities, it is perhaps true that the legendary bird was modelled on a real bird. 

Most commonly, mythology enthusiasts believe that its white plumage may indicate that it was a dove, a white heron, or a white plover. 

What are Caladrius’ powers?

The Caladrius was believed to be able to cure sick people from their ailments by simply looking at them. 

It had a prognosticating nature, too, and could foresee a sick person’s fate. If Caladrius looked away from you, death was around the corner. If it looked into your eyes, the illness would be sapped from you and better days lay ahead. 

Get in Touch

Do you know any stories about Caladrius? Or is there a bird with a similar legend in another mythology that you know about? If so, let us know in the comment section below!

For any enquiries, contact me at richard@mythologyplanet.com

To learn about other mythical birds, why not check out the following links about the Japanese Itsumade and the Persian Chamrosh.

To learn more about Caladrius, check out the great YouTube video below by Stories of Art.

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